Skip to Content


New charity ASTRiiD helps plug UK skills gap by connecting employers with experienced people with long-term health problems
Learn More About Astriid

ASTRiiD helps businesses tap into a valuable and invisible talent pool

Ten days after his 50th birthday, David was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. Two years after his diagnosis, Shutts is pioneering a project that will transform the lives of thousands of fellow cancer patients across the UK.

ASTRiiD will connect skilled people who have long-term illnesses with businesses that need an injection of talent and expertise. “Holding down a permanent job can be a massive challenge for people with cancer and other serious health problems,” said Shutts. “Yet many people still want – and need – to work.”

Making employment easier

ASTRiiD will make it easier for these people to find paid-for and voluntary opportunities with businesses by streamlining the employment-seeking process. “With ASTRiiD, there are no long application forms,” explained the veteran, who served as an Officer in the Royal Navy for 25 years. “We ask people a few simple questions to determine their expertise and work preferences, and then match this with relevant opportunities at participating businesses.”

ASTRiiD, which stands for Available Skills for Training, Refreshing, Improvement, Innovation and Development, is underpinned by technology from Salesforce. “ASTRiiD epitomises modern commerce; we are doing everything virtually,” said Shutts, who was awarded an OBE for his contribution to the Royal Navy.

As well as providing free licences via the Power of Us Program, Salesforce has pulled together a pro bono team to help Shutts launch ASTRiiD.

Astriid logo

“The support has been extraordinary,” he said. “Without, ASTRiiD would still be nothing more than a good idea; it’s been fundamental in bringing the vision to life.”

Building flexible foundations for future growth

ASTRiiD’s website will be the main channel for both members and businesses to subscribe to the service. Sales Cloud and Experience Cloud for Nonprofits will power both public-facing and back-end processes, such as nurturing new business leads and on-boarding new members.

An interactive online app has been developed to guide members through the employment application process and capture the relevant information for future employers. “Once ASTRiiD takes off, we’ll need a lot more capabilities, for example, managing fundraising, distributing newsletters, and tracking successful employment placements,” said Shutts. “With Salesforce, we can keep growing ASTRiiD to meet demand.” And the demand could be huge.

Working and living with long-term illness

According to Macmillan, more than 700,000 people of working age are living with cancer in the UK; many more are living with other long-term illnesses, such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, which impact their ability to work.

Nearly 60% of cancer survivors who were employed when diagnosed had to leave their job or change roles due to a range of reasons, including physical limitations, emotional wellbeing, or a lack of support from their employer.

“Every year many thousands of people are given a life-changing diagnosis of serious illness, which impacts their ability to work full-time,” said Shutts. “When work is suddenly removed, it can result in solitude, financial pressures, and a feeling of worthlessness. By enabling ASTRiiD members to find employment, we hope to make them feel more motivated and valued, which will improve their self-confidence and self-worth, and have a positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing.”

Plugging the UK skills gap with talented people

As well as assisting people with finding part-time placements and mentoring opportunities, ASTRiiD will play a key role in addressing the growing skills gap in the UK’s SME sector. “According to a government survey, 6% of all employers had at least one skill-shortage vacancy,” said Shutts. “With ASTRiiD, businesses will be able to tap into an invisible and highly valuable talent pool.”

People will be able to choose when they are active or inactive members of this pool to accommodate holidays or treatments. They will also be able to choose when and how they work, for example, some people might want to work just one day a week or a month.

“Our mission is to provide meaningful work for people with long-term health problems,” said Shutts.

“With Salesforce, we will be able to reach more people more quickly and help boost their self-esteem. By opening up more employment opportunities for people with long-term illnesses, we’ll be increasing diversity and inclusivity across the UK.”